Communications is a vast field with its own unique challenges. It is not only about writing articles or handling social media, but usually requires you to juggle wearing various hats. To make a lasting impression in communications, you must of course fulfill the described job duties, but knowing how to hone your strengths in a Co-op is the cherry on top.
Working for a utility for the last four months, I have come to learn a lot about the nature of communications work in a large company both internally and externally. These are my 5 tips to make a communications role your own:
1. Find Out What Your Employer’s Challenges Are
Even before you step into the workplace, ideally during the interview process, ask your employer what their struggles are with respect to the work they do. This shows them that you are already thinking about problem-solving and allows you to demonstrate how you’re positioned to solve them through your skillset.
2. Connect the Dots: Do Your Strengths Alleviate Their Weaknesses?
This is the most important step. After you’ve gained an insider’s perspective on what your employer’s challenges are, connect them to your strengths and ask yourself – how can I help them overcome these hurdles? Before joining the workplace, do some independent research on the industry. Find out which technologies are available to alleviate common issues and latest tools available. Learn a skill that might benefit your employer meet their goals.
3. Ask to Be a Part of Projects That Might Seem Above Your Pay Grade
Once at the workplace, assess the situation and see how you can transfer your newly learned or previously acquired skills to the problem at hand. Every employer needs an idea refresh, so make sure to get involved in the process and sit in on important strategy and planning meetings. Listen and learn before you offer advice or solutions; sometimes what might seem obvious to an outsider is completely missed by the insiders.
4. Treat Your Employer Like Your Client
It is important to think multiple times before turning someone away who is asking for help. Make sure to exhaust all your options before you give up. Perseverance can lead to some of the most innovative solutions and might even allow you to find your niche. In communications roles, we are often tasked with helping someone put their vision into action. Whether it is strategy or action orientated tasks, find that sweet spot where you are continuing to learn and also giving employer a return on investment.
5. Ask, Ask, Ask.
Autonomy and independence in a co-op is a great trait, however, make sure to keep your colleagues and manager in the loop at all times. Your skills and talents outside of the job description can create real value for the employer but if you don’t apply them well, no one benefits. Always ask if you’re unsure of a situation; most people don’t mind responding to questions as long as it improves the quality of work and guarantees that everyone is on the same page.
These tips will ensure that you not only bring something to the table that other co-op students before you may not have, but also creates a unique identity for you and your work.
I have come to realize that when you hit that sweet spot, you make life easier for the employer, but also gain some satisfaction in how your work is creating positive change by being used by your organization.